Covid-19: What you need to know today
Data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows that things are already getting worse (the seven-day average of infections is trending upward) in nine of the 10 most-affected countries.Updated: Oct 31, 2020, 08:33 IST
On Wednesday, October 28, the world saw another grim coronavirus disease (Covid-19) milestone. The number of new cases recorded that day crossed half a million — the first time this was happening. Both the New York Times database and worldometers.info show this. They also show that the trend continued on Thursday. According to the NYT database, the world saw 524,554 cases that day; worldometers.info put the number higher, at 545,936. To be sure, the World Health Organization’s database shows that while the number of daily cases is nudging half a million, it is yet to cross it.
The continuing surge of the pandemic highlights another interesting feature: a decline in cases in one region has always been more than offset by a surge elsewhere, with the result that there has been no let-up in the march of numbers. To elaborate, in mid-March, Europe was driving the numbers; between then and mid-August, the Americas took over this role, with some help from Asia (mostly India); then, between mid-August and mid-September, Asia was largely the driver, with some help (albeit, very little) from Europe; starting mid-September, Europe was back in the driver’s seat, initially on its own, and then with the Americas. There have been similar ebbs and flows within the regions too, but the overall numbers have continued to increase.
Most of the cases continue to be concentrated in the northern hemisphere, and the onset of winter will only make things worse — as it was expected to. Data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows that things are already getting worse (the seven-day average of infections is trending upward) in nine of the 10 most-affected countries. India (now pushed to the third spot in terms of daily cases by France) is the only one where they seem to be getting better — the country is currently at or towards the end of the first wave of the pandemic, and the second wave is yet to start. The other nine countries (where things are getting worse) are: the US, France, Spain, Brazil, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Russia, and Poland. Seven of these (including Russia) are in Europe; two are in the Americas. In most European countries, the raging second wave of the pandemic has seen daily case numbers reach new highs — just as they have in the US, which is seeing its third wave (on Thursday, the country crossed 90,000 daily cases, and looks set to be the first to record in excess of 100,000 cases a day).
Unfortunately, the ebb and flow of Covid-19 cases across regions does not appear to be following a temporal cycle. Instead, this is likely to be a function of the infection rate itself, and the response (in the form of restrictions), with a resurgence in cases usually being preceded by significant opening up. For instance, the UK’s ongoing second wave may have been caused (at least in part) by the country’s “eat out to help out” scheme where the government subsidised, through August, meals in pubs and restaurants. According to a study by the University of Warwick, reported by Reuters on Friday, “between 8% and 17% of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme during that period”. The link, the study found, was very strong. “Areas where there was a high uptake of the scheme saw an increase in new infections about a week after it started,” the Reuters story added. And “the research said the same areas saw a decline in new infections a week [after] the discount offer finished”.
In theory, this would mean someone could use mobile phones and the Google Mobility Index to actually build a predictive model of where cases can be expected to spike -- and at a very localised level.